Bachman has seen the Light

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

By DAVID VEITCH -- Calgary Sun

Tal Bachman isn't just an Electric Light Orchestra fan. He's a walking, breathing ELO jukebox.

When conversation over lunch yesterday revealed our mutual admiration for the '70s supergroup, the 29-year-old son of Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman started drumming on the table and singing impromptu versions of obscure ELO songs such as Standing in the Rain, The Fall, Whisper in the Night and 10538 Overture.

He didn't just sing the melodies, but the harmonies, the string arrangements, the keyboard parts. Everything.

Later, he told me in all earnestness that he believes ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne is better than Mozart. "He is a genius," Bachman said. "His songs encapsulate 400 years of popular music, from Mozart to Roy Orbison to The Beatles to Chuck Berry."

We're talking ELO because Bachman's self-titled debut album -- due in stores on Tuesday -- is greatly influenced by British rock of the 1970s. Not only do Bachman's overdubbed vocal harmonies recall ELO, but songs such as I Wonder echo the pop symphonies of Queen, while Paul Buckmaster -- who worked on all of Elton John's '70s classics -- handles the orchestrations. You can almost detect a slight British accent in the Vancouverite's sweet, falsetto-prone singing voice.

"I'm a total anglophile, and so is my dad," explained Bachman. "England is sacred ground in our house. It's where this magic combination of British music hall tradition sort of mixed with American R&B and it was an explosion of gargantuan proportions."

His parents split up when he was 11.

The boy went to live with dad, who just happened to be a bona fide rock star thanks to his work in The Guess Who and Bachman Turner-Overdrive.

"It might have set the course for the rest of my life," Bachman said. "For my dad, everything is about music.

Everything relates back to music.

"I became fanatical because my family disintegrated ... there was a void and now, all of a sudden, the void is filled with Brit-rock. That's what makes up my universe."

However, Bachman's musical future didn't look too bright earlier in the decade, when his early demos were rejected "by everybody on earth," he said, chuckling.

The main complaint? He wasn't grungy enough.

"The funny thing is, I had one fan. Jeff Lynne, my boyhood idol.... My dad slipped him a tape when their paths crossed and I didn't have a deal. I got this phone call one day when I'm in the studio. 'It's Jeff Lynne. How you doing, mate? I heard your tape. I just wanted to say great job, mate. Sounds really good.' I'm like, 'Oh wow. I worship you. I know every note you've played.' "

And how does dad, "a meat-and-potatoes guy," deal with his son's love of fanciful ELO? "It was like coming out of the closet," Bachman quipped. "He accepted it."